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The Green Life: Greening Your Groceries

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January 13, 2010

Greening Your Groceries

Grocery store greening groceries You're trying out this whole green-consumer bit. You started with organic beeswax lipstick and tools from Home Depot's Eco Options program. But now you’re ready to take the movement to the grocery aisle. Before hitting the market, you surf the web to learn about what to buy, and are blindsided with off-putting information about the packaging and harvesting means of what you usually buy. Suddenly, your environmental ethics are pitted against your favorite foods.

Green consumers need not be deprived; be willing to buy familiar products from less familiar brands and remember that greenies care more about the small print on the backs of labels than the bold names on the front. And beware of greenwashing: That scenic painting on the package can still translate to trouble if you judge a product by its cover. Click through the jump to read about alternatives to popular but environmentally costly items:

Coffee: Morning cups of caffeine usually come at great cost to the planet. Most coffee (and chocolate) is grown on land that used to be rainforest. For an eco-friendly kick-start, look for a brand marked “shade-grown,” which means the coffee beans were harvested in shelter in an existing rainforest.

Rice: Even the world’s most popular food isn't immune to destructive harvesting. Big agriculture companies displace small farming families, especially in Asia, by growing, selling, and shipping rice to major markets. To help, buy locally grown rice from companies like Alter Eco; money goes directly to farmers, keeping them in business and decreasing the air pollution caused by transportation.

Wine: It’s often thought of as an all-natural product, but wine produced in mass contains toxins that aren’t good for you or the earth. Organic wines have far fewer pesticides because its producers use natural farming methods. Try biodynamic wines, grown in fields where flowers and weeds coexist with the grapevines, providing homes to wild animals. Also check out Sierra magazine's sustainable wine guide.

--Nicholas Mukhar

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